More Humble Freaking Pie

This should be tattooed on my forehead

Well this has been a spectacularly awful day. Normally I try not to use my blog to just vent and whine (right, long-time readers? I never do that) but today sucked and I’m going to blog about it. Because it’s my blog, that’s why.

After Lincoln’s frenulectomy we had three beautiful days. Three days where I saw who my son could be, who he should be. He still wasn’t an overwhelmingly happy baby, but he was content. He wasn’t frantically trying to nurse every 30 minutes. Instead of taking one two hour nap in the morning and then dozing for 30 minutes in between fits of screaming and frustrating bouts of breastfeeding the rest of the day, he napped contentedly, ate happily, and spent his awake time cheerfully, in our arms or out of them.

Then it all went to hell.

I think the frenulectomy closed up. I know there are stretches to do so this doesn’t happen, but the ENT specifically told me not to do those because it could cause tissue damage around the stitch site. So I didn’t. And now his latch is worse than ever. It’s so bad that after an endless night of restless, angry nursing, I finally tried one last time to nurse him and he gave up three minutes in and just wailed. I felt so helpless and so desperate that I called my neighbor, who brought over formula and a bottle. Then another neighbor sent another bottle and more formula. But Lincoln wouldn’t take either bottle. I tried for hours. He went a solid five hours between the failed nursing attempt this morning and the moment around noon when I finally gave up, in tears again, and tried to nurse him. Maybe half an ounce of formula had dribbled into his mouth, but he’d spit most of it right out.

He nursed for about ten minutes and then fell asleep in exhaustion. I spent the next two hours alternately nursing him and soothing him when he got frustrated and crying myself. I felt horribly guilty about giving him formula this morning, but that guilt went right out the window today. At this point, I just want him to eat. Something. Somehow.

It isn’t like he’s underweight. He’s much, much thinner than my other babies were, and I know that my milk supply is about half what it usually is, but he’s still tracking okay on the growth chart. Or he was, three weeks ago. So he’s getting some calories at least, probably due to my ridiculously overactive letdown. But he’s never content.

We have an appointments with a lactation consultant and the ENT who did the frenulectomy tomorrow, so hopefully we will get some answers. I’m also going to borrow a pump so I can try breastmilk in the bottle. Maybe he’ll be more inclined to try it then. In the meantime…I dunno. I’m going to try not to actually go right over the cliff into total breakdown mode.

I said this on my facebook page this morning and I really meant it. I have never had enough sympathy for mothers who struggled to breastfeed. It was just always so easy for me, I didn’t understand how it could possibly be that difficult.

Well, fellow mothers, I’m sorry for being a snot-faced asshat who did her horrible part to perpetuate the mommy wars. Because this is terrible. It’s probably the most stressful experience of my life, and that includes drug withdrawals and living with my in-laws with three kids and my husband halfway across the country. This is so awful I can’t even put on a happy face when I see people on the street. It’s so awful that I didn’t even smile when the Ogre brought me home a bag of chocolate tonight. It’s so awful that I don’t even want to watch TV.

And I know it’s good that I’m getting my portion of humble pie, but I wish God would stop dishing it out so often. I’ve had so many humbling experiences with motherhood that there is absolutely no area left where I think I rock this shizzle because I’m doing it right, that’s why. Breastfeeding was the last holdout. I know nothing about mothering children. I have no secret abilities or innate gifts. I have no more grand delusions about how homebirthing or breastfeeding or cosleeping or attachment parenting will solve all those poor other mothers’ problems. Reality slapped those right out of me.

I get it now, God. Being a mother is a monumental task, and every mother is different, and every child is different, and no one-size-fits-all “your baby will be happy if you do X because RESEARCH AND STATISTICS” approach is ever going to work. Life has thrown me ridiculously thick frenula and a baby who can actually regenerate, probably because of my excessive gestational Doctor Who watching. The one thing I never worried about has ended up completely undoing me. I admit that I’ve been overly prideful about this one thing, and can only see that when it’s falling apart. I get it.

Please, though, no more pie right now. Let me get over choking this one down.

  • Beth

    Man, I thought I was struggling with breast feeding. My son was born in September and had such bad latch issues initially I was bleeding all over the place in the hospital since he wanted to nurse non-stop. Thankfully we were able to fix some of them, but I had to use the nipple shield while I healed otherwise I broke down from the pain. Now, three months later we still have to use the shield. He literally chokes on my nipple without it and then spits it out. It’s a hassle and I hate breast feeding anywhere but at home, but we manage. Good luck and my prayers for you both.

  • Cathy

    Oh man. Poor baby; poor you. I’ll pray for comfort for both of you.

    And my apologies: I sent you a well-intentioned but advice-y email last week re: your post on loneliness and mothering, and reading this I’m thinking — nah, not the right time. For now, just get through. At the bare minimum, time is on your side: each day is one day closer to the time when this particular struggle is over.

    • calahalexander

      Cathy, I got your email and really appreciated it, I’ve just been swamped and am way behind catching up on emails. I’ll write you back soon. Really, no apologies needed, I’m always grateful for emails!

      • Cathy

        Oh, gosh, don’t worry about replying. I’m just glad you didn’t feel like it was one more unrealistic thing to live up to.

  • Jenny

    I wanted to avoid nipple confusion, but had to supplement with one of my sons. We gave him formula in a medicine cup, the kind that comes with kids’ medicine. How tricky it is depends on their head control, but you simply hold them in a sitting position and rest the cup on their bottom lip. They stick their tongue in and almost lap the milk. Their tongue works like it is nursing, but they don’t need to form a good latch with their lips. I only did it with formula for the one, but I’ve done it to entertain my other babies with water. All of them have been able to drink easily, immediately. 3 of my 4 have had lip ties and that is a very hard, hard way to go with breastfeeding. I hope something works soon, and am praying for your peace!

  • Jordan

    Well as somebody who was one of those struggling mothers, I can say I’m honestly sorry to hear of the struggling in your case! So not fun. I had so many issues (latch on, biting, nipple shield, supply, etc.) and wanted to nurse so badly, I went for about 4-4 1/2 months before giving it up. I really don’t feel like my son missed it at all (he’s always been a very active, world-oriented baby and didn’t want to be snuggled close to mom like those parenting sites/books/”experts” always tell you babies do), but I still felt bad. I do hope he’s not biting the hell out of your nipples though, because that was the case with my son for a good month-month and a half (I don’t know how I even nursed past that). Worst pain in the world to me. My mom and mother in law both had that experience with one child, but for each of them, it was #4, and my Mom felt so bad that it happened to me with #1. I haven’t gotten pregnant again yet, but I’m terrified to try it again. I figure I might as well, but this time I’m not wasting any time on formula-guilt. If I hate doing it, screeeeeew that, I’m going to stop. I’m glad you have some understanding of it now, even though I’m certainly not glad you had to learn it this way (I wouldn’t wish that on anyone – it’s AWFUL!). I hope things get better for you and baby soon in this department!

  • Sherry

    Nothing is more stressful than not being able to comfort your baby. Nothing. That combined with hormones and lactation and everything else, it’s stressful. Prayers. Just for the record, at ten kids, humble pie is still served on a daily basis. I know less than I think. I can do less than I think. The only thing I can do right, is love them.

  • sibyl

    I’ve never commented before but I just wanted to offer my prayers and sympathy. You are in a really steep “learning curve” right now, and I just want you to know that it will NOT ALWAYS BE SO HARD!

    For one thing, every day that goes by gets you a little further out of the postpartum crazy time, allowing your emotions to adjust slightly more readily. Your breastfeeding difficulties will not last forever, or even another year, much as you might feel like it has already been years.

    Try not to feel that you are a bad person for finding this situation so tough. It IS tough. And with the other worries you have blogged about recently, it is a challenge that NO ONE would be able to handle easily. I too went through a time where I thought I might go truly insane if I didn’t get some relief from the struggle, and that everything I thought I knew about myself was wrong. Looking back I can see with more objectivity that I was far too hard on myself.

    I know that this doesn’t do anything to actually relieve your situation, and I wish I could be there to sit with your other kids while you nap with the baby. Be assured that the rest of my Advent I will offer for you and for your little frustrated baby. Prayers from the snowy upper Midwest coming at you.

  • Lena

    I guess if breastfeeding were easy, all the lactation consultants would be out of a job.

  • Chana

    My anesthesiologist Dad taught me the word “frenulum” when I was about 5 years old. He didn’t happen to have one, and showed us. “See? I don’t have a frenulum in the world!”, he would exclaim, sending us into hysterical giggles.

    So obviously, it isn’t funny at all now, but you may be able to get a joke out of this one day.

  • laura

    I’ve had some nursing nightmares. So have all the ladies I’ve known – it often gets harder as you have more kids.

    I encourage you to stick with it. First, calm down. He won’t die if he goes 12 hours without nursing one or two times. If you were going for a medical procedure he’d have to fast – my kids have. Second, let him rest. The more anxious you get about him eating, the more stressed and exhausted he will get, too. Lastly, just tell yourself this is going to take 3 months to figure out. It probably won’t, and then you’ll be pleased. I’ve had several children that did take that long to get nursing smoothly, but then when they did things were so easy I was really glad I stuck with it.

    I will pray for you.

  • laura

    Hmmm. My post probably sounded annoying. What I’m trying to say is, “You can do it!” There are always a lot of ladies who will tell you that if you switch to bottlefeeding that’s not the end of the world, and that’s completely true. My sister and sister-in-law have both had to and their children are loved and healthy and wonderful. I’d like to be the voice that tells you it’s not a waste of time to stick with it, even if it makes you and your family feel crazy for a while. It’s okay to be stubborn about this. Sometimes the way to get at something good doesn’t seem terribly efficient and you can’t see the point until you’re on the other side.

    In my life I’ve had no end of kind people telling me it’s okay to give up, and they’re right, sometimes it really is. But I’ve always appreciated those who see a strength in me or a good that will be hard-won and called me on. One of my children would not nurse for three months. My life was miserable trying to make things work. Then they had cancer, and I was so glad when the nursing finally worked out that I was able to have that kind of nuturing relationship in the midst of all the pain they went through.